08 July, 2011
How to Learn the Westside Barbell Routine
Known for his innovative and forward-thinking training methods in the sport of powerlifting and other professional sports, powerlifter Louie Simmons created the Westside Barbell Method. This training method involves lifting heavy weights and doing explosive, plyometric exercises. The goal is to become strong, powerful and fast.
How it Started
In an interview with Muscle Insider, Louie Simmons talks about the creation of Westside. He reveals that it originally started as a gym in his basement. As popularity grew, he moved the gym to his garage, and eventually out to a commercial space.
The Westside Barbell gym isn't a stereotypical workout space. You can't walk in and sign up for a membership; it's much more exclusive than that. You have to be invited to train at Westside Barbell because it's a private gym. Once inside, you'll find powerlifters and even some professional athletes.
Their training methods might seem strange to some. They use specialized barbells, resistance bands and even heavy chains for their workouts. Some their training is inspired by old-school Soviet weightlifting coaches and some of it comes from the latest scientific research.
The basic philosophy at Westside is to vary your training methods, rather than doing the same workout in the gym week in and week out. Louie Simmons calls this repetitive training "accommodation," and notes that it leads to stagnation and stalls in muscle gain. On Westside Barbell's website, he explains that his gym avoids accommodation by slightly tweaking their exercises.
For example, they use a thicker barbell in the bench press, or add resistance bands or chains to the bar in addition to regular weights to change the style of resistance. They make these slight alterations in exercises and practice them for three weeks before they switch things up again.
This style of training is called "the conjugate method," which means that you are taking multiple training styles and putting them together into a workout program.
Louie Simmons elaborates on how he developed his methods in an article on his website titled "Westside Conjugate System." In the article, he further elaborates on the Westside training program. Each training week is broken down into two maximum effort days and two dynamic effort days for each main exercise: the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Maximum Effort Day
Westside Barbell Certified coach, Jordan Syatt, sheds some light on the Westside workouts in an article on his blog. On the maximum effort day, you work up to a very heavy weight that only allows you to perform one to three repetitions. The first day of the week is dedicated to either the squat or bench press. Pick a variation of either exercise, or do the standard version, for one to three weeks. Remember not to do the same exercise for more than three weeks in a row.
The next day you'll do a max effort bench press: Load up a weight that's so heavy that you can only perform one to three repetitions. Once again, don't perform the plain old bench press for more than three weeks in a row. Variations mean you use a thicker barbell, move your hands in closer or wider or use dumbbells.
On the maximum effort days, go into the workout without any preconceived notion of how much weight you'll lift that day. Simply do the best you can. You don't have to set a record every max effort day, you're just trying to lift as much as you can at that time.
Dynamic Effort Day
The next two days of the week are called dynamic effort days. These workouts are dedicated to speed and explosiveness. Once again, pick a variation of the squat or deadlift for day one, and a variation of the bench press for day two.
For each exercise, you'll perform nine to 12 sets of one to three repetitions with a lighter weight, moving it as quickly as possible. The goal for these workouts isn't to fatigue your muscle, it's to practice being quick and explosive; so you need to pick a weight that you can move quickly for every single set and repetition.
The Westside system is slightly spastic and open for interpretation. In general, stick to doing two maximum effort days and two dynamic effort days. Don't do an exercise variation for more than three weeks in a row. However, you can switch things up earlier if you think it would be beneficial. Try to stay within the repetition ranges set for each day. Use a heavy weight on the maximum effort day and a light weight on the dynamic effort day. Experiment within these parameters and find what works best for you.